-One of the biggest win/loss factors in the league is turnover margin. If you can win the turnover battle, chances are you win the game. And the Buccaneers' fate has been no exception.
That was a major difference in their two games so far this season. Against the Saints in their season opener, the Bucs generated no turnovers and instead gave the ball away twice on interceptions and once on a fumble. They lost the game. Conversely, at home, they generated four turnovers while only surrendering two in return. They won the game.
In fact, the Buccaneers are 4-0 in games where they recorded three or more takeaways under Head Coach Bruce Arians.
"Well, we dropped two interceptions that we should have caught in New Orleans," Arians said Wednesday about the defense creating turnovers so far this season. "Obviously, we turned the ball over too many times. They come in bunches. We had a good opportunity to strip-sack – Shaq [Barrett] just missed one in that ballgame, also. Turnovers are a funny thing. They come in bunches sometimes and some of it is the team you're playing."
The defense themselves are heavily focusing on taking the ball away more as the season progresses. It's viewed as the next step in continuing to improve the defense from last year and a key focal point of the system.
"That's the main thing," said veteran inside linebacker Lavonte David, who forced and recovered a fumble in Sunday's game. "I know turnovers was a big deal for our success last year. We all wanted that to turn around. We didn't get it done in the first game, but we were able to turn around and get it done last week against Carolina. It helped propel us to a victory. That's something we want to continue to stack on. It helps us be a great defense that we want to be [and] continue to attack the football, whether it's going for it as far as forcing fumbles, or taking the ball away while it's in the air. That's the thing that makes a defense great. We work on it in practice and we want it to transpire over to the field."
"The key to taking the ball away is just being consistent – being at the right place at the right time, just reading your keys and playing the ball," said second-year cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, who led all rookies in interceptions last season. "It's one thing to have your receiver bottled up, but you need to get your head back around and look at the ball. I know last week, there was a play that I had where I was in coverage. It was tight coverage, but I didn't get my head around, so I wasn't able to make a play on the ball, and if I did get my head around, the outcome probably would have been different. It's just being consistent, being true to your keys and playing ball – reading what you see and playing what you see."
The Broncos have surrendered a total of three turnovers so far this season, tying them for seventh-most in the league. Sunday will be another opportunity for the defense to sway the outcome of the game should they be able to get their hands on the ball with a backup quarterback under center.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneer offense should be firing on (most) cylinders with both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin having a full week of preparation together for the first time this season. Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen said he has seen flashes of just how good this offense can be in practice and is looking forward to getting both Pro Bowl wide receivers on the field and healthy at the same time.
"I do think it will be fun having both those guys out there going 100 miles per hour," he said. "Even just practice – Mike was out of practice that first week, Chris last week didn't practice. Even practice because now all of a sudden [on] Friday you're switching – 'Hey, this guy's going to be your 'F' [receiver], this guy's going to be in the slot [and] we're going to adjust all these different things.' I do think we've stressed that all year with the COVID thing – that's what this year's going to be. There's going to be some different people in some different places and the chances are you're going to get some curveballs in this next 14 weeks. It should be good practice and we have to function with that. That's what this year already is."
-In case you missed it, players were asked which one of their teammates they'd trust to date their sister. The answers were predictably hilarious:
Bucs Tweet of the Day: